Glossary of Terms

Humphries Weaving glossary of terms for textiles and weaving.

We hope you find our glossary of terms for textiles and weaving helpful. If you think there are any that we’ve forgotten, we’d love to hear from you. You may also enjoy our articles on simple weave structures and complex weave structures. If you are looking for an in depth resource or reference book for glossary of terms then we can recommend the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles 

Glossary of terms


Abrasion test

A test used to simulate the wear and/or performance of textile yarns and fabrics. This test is often done using a piece of equipment called a Martindale Abrasion Tester.

All silk

This term is used when a fabric contains no other textile fibre than silk.


Banner cloth

Highly picked for its strength, plain banner cloth is used for flags and other ceremonial regalia. Especially as a base for thorough embroidery.


A cloth woven with a number of warps in sections, usually of a specific range of yarns either in solid colours or in stripes and woven with the same range of weft colours or stripes in the weft in the same sequence as the warp.


A spool or cylindrical barrel onto which yarn is wound for use in production. i.e. warp bobbin. Designed for revolving with a central spindle hole.


A late 16th century fabric of silk warp & wool weft, generally finer than poplin and so more often used in dress fabrics, made of a twill construction. It was traditionally a piece dyed in black and used for mourning dress.


Rich, heavy, draw loom and later Jacquard –woven fabric with raised floral or figured patterns emphasized by a contrasting surfaces or colours. Often it is made with gold of silver threads. The Brocaded threads float on the back of the cloth and do not run from selvedge to selvedge, but remain in clusters.


The figure is woven with two or more wefts with extra binder warp, in high relief on a Jacquard loom, which gives the fabric its pout. It is distinguishable by the warp satin being in the figure of the cloth. An expensive and highly desirable fabric today, Brocatelle was originally designed as a more cost effective way to imitate the appearance of figured velvet.



A process used to finish cloth by passing it through rollers under pressure. The machine is called a calendar. This process can be used to create different textures and surface effects on the woven cloth.


A plain weave fabric richer in yarn than Tammy, often woven in worsted wool.

Cards, Jacquard

Cards are used in conjunction with Jacquard looms, to programme the loom for weaving, complex and elaborate patterns. A Jacquard mechanism, similar to the simpler dobby system, operated by punched holes in cards which are laced together.

Carriage cloth

Decorative borders used in the upholstery of horse drawn, rail and motor carriages from the early 19th century onwards until the First World War when the mass production of cars took over. Usually in figured velvet.


A sensation of light in the eyes induced by certain frequencies, including each colour of the rainbow as we know it. Colour is applied to textiles by dyeing and printing. The basic, so called ‘primary colours’, are red, blue and yellow. ‘Secondary colours’ are made up of a mixture of two of each of the primary colours: red and blue = purple; blue and yellow = green; yellow and red = orange.

Colour abrasion

Sometimes called frosting. Colour abrasion is colour change in localised areas of a fabric where differential wear has taken place.

Colour fastness

The term colourfast describes a fabric which has retained sufficient colour after dyeing so that no noticeable change in shade has taken place.

Colour and weave effect

The visual effect created in a fabric, using a particular weave and by grouping coloured warp threads and crossing them with groups of coloured weft threads.

Cotelin, Figured

A heavily ribbed fabric in the ground with a figured design.


The English word ‘cotton’ derives from the Arabic word qutn or qutun. Cotton is a long unicellular seed fibre grown on the outer skin of the cotton seed to aid seed dispersal in natural conditions. These fibres vary from 10mm to 55mm in length and can be brown, as seen in wild varieties such as gossypium thurberi, or white in cultivated hybrid varieties.


A system for measuring the fineness or thickness of yarn by spinners, weavers and knitters. In Scotland the term is known as grist. In all other English speaking countries the term count is used. All fibres originally had their own count system, now much replaced by New Metric (NM) systems.


A specified length of cloth required for an installation i.e. to accommodate a specified curtain drop.



A heavy Jacquard woven fabric woven in silk, linen, cotton, worsted wool and man-made fibres. Traditionally woven with satin and sateen weaves.The reversible pattern is distinguished from the background by contrasting lustre. The satin features in the ground of the fabric, unlike a Brocatelle. The word derives from a rich silk fabric introduced into Europe through Damascus. Damask describes the construction of the fabric and not the design as commonly perceived.


The space between two adjacent wires in a reed. In the weaving process the number of dents per CM determines the sett (or set) of the warp.


A weaving mechanism which controls the shafts or harnesses to permit more complex geometric weave patterns than those obtainable on simple cam, tappet, countermarch or counterbalance looms and simpler than those obtained by the use of a Jacquard mechanism.


Combining, plying or twisting two or more yarns together to make a single yarn. The process is often carried out on a machine called a doubler.


The order in which warp threads are drawn through the heddles. This will determine the weave of the fabric when the shafts, holding the heddles are mounted into the loom.


Fabric especially used for windows and beds in the 16th – 18th centuries.

Drape of cloth

When a fabric hangs in soft, gentle folds. See handle.


The process of colouring yarn or cloth through immersion in a liquor containing either mineral, vegetable or animal dyes or synthetic chemical dye compounds together with other chemicals to fix the dye into the fibre.



An individual warp yarn (single, plyed or corded).

End and End

Alternating warp ends using yarns of similar counts and different colours. See pick and pick.



Fabrics are woven, knitted, felted, tufted, braided, embroidered, made of lace or net and some produced by a range of non-woven processes. Sometimes referred to as cloth.

Fabric widths

Standard fabric widths in centimetres in the EU.


This term applies to the resistance to change or fading, either by water, washing with soap or detergent or by daylight, which the dye possesses. Sometimes referred to as colour-fastness.

Fibre length

The length of each individual natural or man-made fibre. See Staple length.


A general term for the pattern or decoration of a fabric. See Ground.


A stem fibre commonly grown in Europe and Russia. The fibre, produced after retting and put through the scutching process, is used in the production of linen and paper. The seed of the flax plant produces linseed oil. See linen.



A lustrous shiny surface that is produced on some fabrics, often through the process of calendaring.


A general term for the plain base or background of a decorated textile. See Figure.



The term used to describe the feel of a fabric. See Drape.



The Jacquard mechanism is attached to a loom and operated by a punched card system which selects individual warp threads by mechanically operated Jacquard machines which are electronically controlled. The Jacquard mechanism was the first to use binary code and considered by many to be the first computer. Invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard 1803.



Creating a brocade effect by inter-changing weft colours over the course of the cloth in a barred technique, in order that the cloth thickness is not built up.


Linen is the fibre obtained from the flax stalk. Traditionally linen is taken from pulled flax, to preserve the fibre length, and is then retted or rotted in water to separate the linen fibre from the surrounding soft material. It is considered to be the strongest natural fibre. Evidence shows that linen could be the oldest textile in the world. See flax.


A mechanism on which to weave cloth. The simplest loom is a wooden frame onto which warp yarns are stretched and fixed to two opposite sides. The weft is then passed up and over the warp threads to make a fabric.


A fine, glossy silk fabric, often used for linings.


All silk fabric, similar to lusting but often heavier in weight.



A process which produces a smooth lustrous finish to cotton, or other cellulosic fibre, yarn and fabric. Mercerizing causes the cotton fibres to swell giving it greater dye affinity and also making the fibre stronger.


A French word that means watered. A finishing process that produces a wavy or rippling pattern by being passed through a calendar.



A strong silk yarn made from high quality filament silk. Single raw silk yarn is twisted and then doubled. The compound thread is twisted once again in the opposite direction. Organzine is mostly used as a warp yarn due to its high twist.



This term is normally used when referring to a quantity of yarn which has been wound onto a cardboard, wooden or plastic cylindrical tube or support, often for dyeing.


A weft thread in a fabric. Sometimes referred to as a shot. When weaving, to pick is the process of passing the weft through the warp shed. Pick can also refer to the construction of the cloth i.e. one pick cloth has one layer of weft, two pick cloths have two layers of weft.

Pick and Pick

Alternating weft yarns (often in slightly differing shades) to create a tonal colour. See end and end.


Also called a counting-glass. A small magnifying glass mounted in a small hinged metal frame with a fixed focus the base having an aperture measuring either one square inch or one square centimetre. Used for counting the ends and picks.


A length of fabric in loom or grey state, or a length of warp to produce it, usually 50m to 60m.

Plain Weave

One of the simplest and most commonly used weave constructions, the plain weave repeats on two ends and two picks.

Point paper

Similar to graph paper and used for drawing weave patterns, particularly in designing Jacquard fabrics to show weaves or designs in diagrammatic form.


A strong, thermoplastic, man-made fibre produced from petrochemicals (petroleum-chemicals).


The term poplin comes from the French word popeline, which is a fabric used for church vestments originally made in the papal city of Avignon in southern France. Poplin is a lightweight, closely woven cotton or silk fabric with very fine ribs across the width of the cloth.

Pure silk

Silk yarn or fabric which contains no metallic or other weighting agents except those essential ones used in dyeing. A silk thread reeled directly from the cocoon in a continuous filament.



A rigid or flexible rod or steel tape that carries the yarn across the shed in a shuttleless rapier loom.

Raw silk

Continuous filaments of silk, with no twist, which have been reeled from cocoons but as yet, unprocessed and still containing sericin.


Rayon (viscose rayon) is the oldest of all the man-made fibres and was originally produced by dissolving nitro-cellulose into a solution which could be extruded through a nozzle and made into a filament. Trade name for viscose by Samuel Courtauld in 1920s.


The reed determines the arrangement or spacing of the warp threads across the width of the fabric. When the weft is placed into the fell of the cloth the reed beats it into position evenly


A closely spaced raised cord or ridge running in the direction of the weft.


A raised cord or ridge extended throughout the length of the cloth, running in the direction of the warp.



A fine plain weave fabric often used for linings, it has high lustre and a soft finish. A derivative of lute and lustring.


Weave construction: A weft faced weave. Fabric: A smooth fabric, free of any twill direction, where the weft thread is usually coarser than the warp. A fabric made with this weave is often referred to as a sateen fabric.


Weave construction: A warp faced weave. Fabric: Traditionally made of silk, satin has a smooth, lustrous, unbroken surface texture.


Alternative spelling: set. This term is used to indicate the density of the ends and picks in a woven fabric. Usually expressed by the number of ends per centimetre and the number of picks per centimetre.


The opening for the weft to pass through selected lifted warp ends leaving the remainder lowered. For instance when weaving a plain weave fabric, the warp ends are lifted and lowered alternately.

Shot silk

An iridescent effect in a silk cloth, like taffeta, woven with one colour in the warp and contrasting colour in the weft.


The yarn-package (such as a pirn or plug) carrier that passes through the shed of the warp to insert the weft during weaving. There are many types of shuttle. See Rapier.


The protein filament formed into a cocoon by the larva of the silk moth during the process of sericulture.


A fine stripe or streaky effect, created in the length of the fabric produced by random warp yarns having been dyed in a variety of tones of the same colour.



Made with a silk warp to create dense satin warp stripes with a filling rib in usually cotton or linen. This structure often has a moiré finish applied. See Moiré.


A plain weave fabric usually in all wool.


The French term used for woven fabric. A figured silk with more than one weft colour used to produce figuring of a different style and colour. Up to 8 weft colours can be used continuously or in bars. See Lampas.


Tram is medium twisted thread formed by twisting 2 to 3 silk yarns together with low twists per metre. It is moderately strong, soft and has a good handle (feel) and is mostly used as weft.


A basic weave characterised by a diagonal rib, or twill line, generally running upward from left to right.


The amount of twist in a yarn plays an important part in determining its character, in particular its hardness or softness and strength. Variation in twist will have considerable effect on the appearance of a fabric and shows in the dyeing and finishing.



Any fabric used to cover furniture, it can be manufactured from any fibre or combination of fibres.


A pile fabric where the loop, created by an extra warp is cut. The distinguishing feature of velvet is a succession of rows of short, close together, cut tufts creating a uniform surface which is lustrous in appearance and soft to the touch. The quality of velvet is determined by the closeness of the tufts and the density of the backing. Traditionally woven with silk pile and cotton back as a single fabric.


Viscose Flax combines the two fibres; Viscose (regenerated fibre made from wood pulp) and flax. See flax.



The threads (ends) that run the length of the fabric on the loom and are interlaced with weft (picks) to form the fabric. See end.


The preparation of a number of threads (ends) which are arranged in order, number and width, parallel to each other and wound on the back beam on the loom.


The term weave is used normally to describe the structure of a woven fabric or the process of weaving which is usually carried out on a loom. Woven fabrics are constructed with two sets of interlacing warp and weft yarns. The warp yarns, or ends, are usually wound lengthwise on the loom, while the weft yarns, or picks, interlace the warp at right angles to produce the fabric.

Weaver’s knot

The smallest knot allowing a weaver to repair a broken warp end or two pieces of weft thread. This type of knot lies flat on of the surface of the finished cloth and requires minimal attention from the mender or inspector.


The threads that are passed across and through the warp by a shuttle or rapier to form a woven fabric.

Weft Faced

A construction where the warp acts only as a binder and is completely covered by the weft yarn(s).


The word wool comes from the old English word wull. Wool is the shorn fleece of a sheep.


A cloth woven from fine yarn which has been spun from combed wool, to remove the short fibres producing a smooth, lightweight and often lustrous fabric.


The basic component of woven fabric. Yarn, sometimes referred to as thread, is either a collection of small lengths of natural or man-made fibre which are spun and twisted together or endless extruded natural or man-made filament.

Yarn count

See count.

Humphries Weaving glossary of  terms for textiles and weaving.